Longest Car Battery Warranty | The Truth

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Are you shopping for a car battery or a car battery warranty? You should be shopping for a car battery, but the car battery warranty should certainly be a consideration. So is a longer car battery warranty better? Sometimes, but not always. To explain how car battery warranties actually work, we'll use our Group 78 REDTOP battery as an example.

That Group 78 OPTIMA REDTOP battery comes with a three-year, free replacement warranty in consumer applications. We added that caveat about "consumer applications," because there are exceptions to that warranty. If you use the battery in commercial applications or deep-cycle applications, the warranty term may be shortened or eliminated entirely, so always read the warranty fine print on any battery you are consider. You can read our complete warranty here. If you can't find the complete warranty terms & conditions on another battery you are considering purchasing, there's a good chance you won't be able to find anyone who will be able to provide actual warranty service for that battery either, so avoid it.

Prices on batteries are always changing and vary based on local taxes. We also don't know when you'll be reading this, but for the sake of simplicity for this example, we'll call an OPTIMA REDTOP a $250 battery. If that battery stops working at any point during your first three years of use, we'll replace it for free. However, the replacement battery warranty does not re-set, so the warranty coverage still ends 36 months (three years) from the original date of purchase. Contrary to Internet rumor, this is the case for all car battery warranties. If a warranty re-set with each replacement, you'd essentially have a lifetime battery warranty and people would try to destroy their batteries right before the warranty was up, to get a free replacement with more warranty coverage. We don't know of anyone who offers such a warranty, but if you find someone, buy their battery...while they're still in business to sell batteries...and hope they're still in business when you need replacements

Performance Warranty

There are certainly longer warranties out there, so we'll use another brand's battery as an example, as it has a five-year "performance" warranty. Some other brands call their warranties "pro-rated." That means after the free replacement period (which is usually much shorter), the consumer must pay something for their replacement battery, which also only carries warranty coverage from the original date of purchase. Once again, for the sake of simplicity, we'll call the brand X battery a $150 battery.

Longer warranty and a cheaper battery? Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? Well, read on. In the case of that "five-year" warranty, after 24 months and 1 day, consumers are required to pay 55% of SRP (suggested retail price) on the Performance Warranty, although they'll frame it that you'll get 45% off SRP to make it sound better. That means for the third year of your warranty on that "five-year" warranty, you will have now paid $232.50 ($150+$82.50) for your battery, assuming the price of the battery didn't increase after you bought it. If it did, you might end up paying a little more, as the SRP is at the time of warranty replacement, not the original purchase. So you may still come out $18.50 ahead of the OPTIMA, which has no pro-ration for three years or warranty coverage.

In year four of the five-year warranty, the SRP charge goes up to 75% and there's a good chance the battery price will have increased in the four years since you bought it. We'll say it went up to $160, so now you're paying $150 (original price) plus another $120 for the warranty replacement, so $270 total and you still only have warranty coverage for one more year, even though you just paid most of the cost of a new battery.

In year five of the five-year warranty, the SRP charge goes up to 90% and for the sake of the example, we'll keep the price at $160, so now you are paying $294 ($150 original price plus $144 on the warranty replacement) for a battery that will have less than one year of warranty coverage remaining. For another $16, you could've bought a brand-new battery with five more years of warranty coverage, but how many people think to know or do that? If you thought the Performance Warranty was complicated, wait until we explain pro-rated warranties! 

Pro-Rated Warranty

Let's use the same $150 brand X battery as an example for how pro-rated warranties are calculated. Unlike the Performance Warranty, which dings you for a flat percentage for the full year, pro-rated warranty fees increase on a monthly basis. So if a brand has a five-year pro-rated warranty after the two years of free replacement coverage, that means on the first day of the 25th month, you'll have to pay just $62.50 for a warranty replacement (25 months x $2.50 per month). However, that fee will increase by $2.50 per month until the end of the five years. Will the retailer charge you a pro-rated fee based on the original purchase price or the current (and probably more expensive) price? That's up to the retailer, but you should find that out before you buy a battery.

However, that means the battery that was originally $100 cheaper than the OPTIMA will only end up being $10 cheaper by the end of the third year of pro-rated warranty coverage ($150 + $90 for the warranty replacement). By the end of year four of the pro-rated coverage, you will have paid $270 ($150 + $120). The deal you thought you were getting on a five-year pro-rated warranty will probably not turn out to be much of a deal by the end of the fifth year of coverage. With one month to go, you'll spend $147.50 to replace your $150 battery and will be left with just 30 days (or less) of warranty coverage.

But Whaddabout...

What if you find you can't get any battery to last more than a year in your vehicle? If that's the case, then you have an electrical issue in your vehicle, that you should address, before you end up paying LOTS of money for warranty replacement batteries. In the case of the the Performance Warranty battery, your cost would be as follows:

$150 original purchase price
FREE year one replacement
FREE year two replacement
$82.50 year three replacement
$120 year four replacement
$144 year five replacement

Total cost for your $150 battery with a five-year Performance Warranty? $496.50

On the Pro-Rated warranty side, it would look like this:

$150 original purchase price
FREE replacement at month 11
FREE replacement at month 23
$87.50 replacement at month 35
$117.50 replacement at month 47
$147.50 59 month replacement at month 59

Total cost for your $150 battery with a five-year Pro-Rated Warranty? $502.50

If you're only getting about a year out of a battery, you might be better off going for the absolute cheapest battery you can find, which will probably offer a one-year free-replacement warranty (some of the cheapest batteries may only offer six months). If your battery went bad inside of the 12 months in the first year, but just outside of 12 months in each of the subsequent replacements, this is what your expenditure would look like:

$95 original purchase price
FREE replacement at month 11
$95 replacement at month 23
$95 replacement at month 35
$105 replacement at month 47 (price increase)
$105 replacement at month 59

Total cost for your $95 battery with a one-year Free-Replacement Warranty? $495


Ultimately, the best warranty is the one you never need to use and as we mentioned before, there are plenty of exclusions that can render even the best-sounding warranty null & void. We've read the warranties from other brands and manufacturers and their language includes all kinds of exclusions that void warranties, like using a battery charger that isn't on their list of approved chargers, discharging your battery below 10.5 volts or cycling the battery too many times and just using it up before the term of the warranty expires.

The truth is that battery warranties largely serve a marketing function for brick & mortar retailers. They know that every time you come in for battery warranty service, they'll probably sell you something else too. If a battery only lasts four years, they're more than happy to have you come in and pay a pro-rated or performance fee that will likely more than cover their cost for the replacement battery, plus whatever they make off the other parts you buy.

Whether you choose an OPTIMA battery or any other brand, if it is going to fail because of a manufacturing defect, that will probably happen well within the first year of use, if not the first few weeks. Beyond that, battery lifespan is largely tied to how you use and maintain your battery. So what might the best insurance policy be against premature battery failure? Charging your battery periodically (at least once a month) with a quality battery charger or maintainer. It might add $100 or so to your investment in a battery, but regular use can significantly extend battery lifespan for all your car batteries going forward and that's an investment that can end up paying for itself many times over.